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Why Polaroid’s Cube Action Cam is Special

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Shopping for an action camera is like shopping for adhesive bandages: you either buy Band-Aids … or you pick up something  called “Aid Plus Bandages” because they’re on sale. And when you bring them home, you just call them Band-Aids anyway.

The proverbial Band-Aid in the action cam market is GoPro, the unquestioned dominating power and perhaps the tastiest, too. There have been challengers but none have taken a particularly large share of the market.

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It’s very likely that isn’t going to change, but Polaroid’s Cube — the latest new arrival to the action cam market for which pre-sales began Monday — is definitely the most interesting GoPro alternative to show up in years.

An early version of the Cube — then known as the much less interesting Polaroid C3 — first appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January. Back then it was relatively uninteresting, a by-the-numbers action cam that happen to be cubical. And while the specs haven’t changed much in the intervening time, it got an extra megapixel (it now has six megapixels instead of five), the video was upgraded from 720p to 1080p, and the design got a nice facelift. Plus, the $100 price tag that’s been announced places it amongst the most affordable action cams.

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More importantly, though, it got a personality.

Check out the YouTube advertisement released in June when Polaroid announced the final specs for their geometric “lifestyle action camera.” It portrays an anonymous creative guy with a trendy beard bumming around San Francisco with a MacBook and a Fixie bike.

Note: there are no surfers involved in the whole thing. Seriously, no surfing. Do you know how rare that is? Consider these promotional videos:

  1. Garmin Virb – Surfing
  2. Sony HDR-AS30V – Surfing
  3. Drift Ghost-S – Surfing
  4. JVC Adixxion – Surfing
  5. Toshiba Camileo – Surfing
  6. GoPro Hero 3+ Black – Surfing
  7. iOn Air Pro – Surfing

I get it, surfing shots are fun and show off the camera’s durability, but when everybody seems to be desperately appealing to the surfer demographic, they’re surely leaving a lot of non-surfers (most people) standing on the shore.

Polaroid’s Cube comes in bright colors and utilizes built-in magnets to make it easy to affix to stable, slow-moving objects. One of the initial mounts released for the camera will be shaped like a monkey.

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And the award for creativity in naming goes to…

And, perhaps most interestingly, initial sales for the camera are being launched through Photojojo, a quirky online photo-store that could probably be called the American Outfitters of the photography industry.

You can’t find them on B&H, Adorama, or even Amazon.

If it sounds kind of like a joke, that’s probably because it kind of is. The tone of all the marketing is silly and relaxed — no swooping house music or crazy stunts like marketing efforts for this type of product normally feature. It doesn’t feel like a GoPro redux, it feels like something different — and that’s entirely the point.

Most of the time when competitors try to take sneak off with a piece of the mountain of gold that GoPro sits on, they focus on one of two things: price or specs.

But it doesn’t really work. Since at least last year, when GizMag compared the leading action cams on the market, GoPro hasn’t had the longest battery life, the highest resolution, the greatest dive depth, the lowest weight, and definitely not the lowest price. It has other benefits, sure, like the most fleshed out mount-catalog of any action cam and at least a small variety of third party accessories, but these are the result of nearly a decade of experimentation and community-building and are not something a newcomer can easily mimic.

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The Polaroid Cube doesn’t even come close to touching the top-of-the line GoPro stats or extreme sports chops — although it does come in significantly cheaper. One gets the sense that Polaroid didn’t even try, probably because they didn’t.

Instead, they wrote (or are trying to write) a different story with a different protagonist. And while number crunching and pixel-peeping is seemingly the law of the land among photography gear-heads, everyday consumers — the type that built GoPro’s empire and that Polaroid is targeting — care about the story.

That’s why Beats by Dre are everywhere, why MacBooks positively blanket college campuses, and why maybe, just maybe, Polaroid’s Cube has the best chance to taking some of GoPro’s spotlight of any action cam in recent memory.


Image Credit: Images courtesy of Polaroid